Summer signing Liam Hearn was an instant hero with two goals in eight minutes in a 30-minute second half appearance as Mansfield Town shot down Championship giants Leeds United 2-0 in a superb pre-season friendly win at One Call Stadium tonight.
Hearn, fighting his way back from a serious knee injury, his second career-threatening injury in two years, had been wrapped in cotton wool until tonight.
But the striker, who boasts a career record of almost one goal every two game, came on to dramatically change what had been a drab affair with two mouthwatering glimpses of what may be to come for Stags fans.
Within eight minutes of coming on he had won and tucked away a penalty kick before, eight minutes later showing a combination of awareness, positioning, strength and classy finishing to finish off a lacklustre Leeds.
Earlier, chances had been limited in a game short on thrills with Stags’ Swiss trialist keeper only having one real save to make and Leeds wasting a couple of other close range opportunities.
But it was often hard to tell which was the Championship club as Stags battled hard all night, showing excellent fitness levels.
Simon Heslop, signed earlier in the day, made a fine debut with some strong tackling as well as some decent passes sprayed either side of him.
Lee Beevers also came though an hour of action with no ill effects after his summer shoulder operation.
Stags began with a back three of Sutton, Dempster and Riley with Beevers at right wing back, Trialist 1 at left wing back, Murray and Heslop holding in midfield with Fergus Bell advanced and a front pairing of Palmer and Fisher.
Leeds almost grabbed an early lead when Hunt missed the ball with a brief chance at an overhead kick in the middle of the six yard box.
New signing Heslop’s first contribution was a dreadful free kick from distance that sailed high into the South Stand.
A 30-yard free kick from Austin was also too high at the other end for the visitors.
There was little to excite the crowd in those early stages.
Walters did not get enough on his glancing header from United’s first corner on 24 minutes and then he went down in pain, having to be helped off.
Fisher almost opened the scoring on 34 minutes as he curled in a low shot from the left from a tight angle, Taylor having to turn it round for a corner.
Beevers won another corner soon after with his neat footwork on the by-line earning warm applause. But again Leeds cleared their lines.
Riley came up with a timely challenge to halt Poleon as United broke two on two down the right on 37 minutes.
Three minutes later Fisher did really well to run at the Leeds defence and wait for back-up, the ball eventually being cleared to Bell who rifled a low shot narrowly wide.
Then Murray tried to set up Palmer on the edge of the box which saw Taylor race to meet him and unable to handle just outside his area, Fisher nipping in to lob inches wide of the gaping net as the ball ran momentarily loose.
This was much better from Mansfield. However, Leeds should have taken a 43rd minute lead. A right wing corner was worked in from Byram to an unmarked Bianchi on the edge of the six yard box who missed the target with a first time finish.
Stags’ trialist keeper then confidently stretched and caught White’s left wing corner to earn applause.
Fisher might have broken clear right on half-time but Pearce was there quickly to make the challenge just inside the Leeds half and a lukewarm first half ended scoreless.
Rhead replaced Fisher up front for the second half for the home side.
Fergus Bell sent an early free kick straight into the Leeds wall.
Stags’ first corner of the half stemmed from a fabulous pass from central midfield by Heslop out to the right. From the corner Rhead was high and wide of the far angle with his looping header.
Rhead’s power forced a mistake at the back of the visiting defence which let the ball run for Fergus Bell to drill a low shot wide.
Leeds forced a save out of the home trialist keeper on 56 minutes.
Murphy threaded Smith into the right of the box. But the keeper got his legs in the way and the ball was cleared to the edge of the box where White sent a low shot wide of the right post.
On the hour United changed almost the entire team as they brought the rest of their substitutes on.
Stags fans were then treated to the sight of new signing Hearn in a Mansfield shirt for the first time as he replaced Palmer on 63 minutes as the home side began intermittent changes of their own.
Hearn then took his first step towards becoming the new darling of the Stags fans as he opened his account within eight minutes of coming on.
Hearn beat keeper Taylor to the ball in the box and drew the foul, the referee pointing straight to the spot.
The crowd cheered as Hearn was given the chance to take the kick and he buried the coolest of spot kicks, right-footed high to the right with Taylor going the wrong way.
United might have pulled one back soon after as Norris met a right wing cross by Thompson with a firm header that sailed just over.
Clements then had to get in a good block after a loose pass along the edge of his own box by Murray.
Clements was unlucky to see what looked to be a goalbound free kick clip the wall and end up for a corner.
But Hearn wrapped up the win with seven minutes to go as he showed his strength and power to get goalside of the defenders from a Rhead flick before calmly slotting an unstoppable finish to the right of Taylor.
STAGS: Trialist 1; Beevers (Marsden 69), Riley, Dempster, Sutton; F. Bell (Thomas 79), Murray (Trialist 3 79), Heslop (Clements 66), Trialist 2 (Amari’i Bell 69); Palmer (Hearn 63), Fisher (Rhead HT). Sub not used: McGuire.
LEEDS: Taylor; Byram, Wootton, Pearce, Warnock; Murphy, Austin, White; Hunt (Bianchi 16mins), Smith White, Walters (Poleon 26mins). Subs used on 60 minutes: Silvestri, Thompson, Lees, Killock, Taylor, Cook, Norris, Morison, Doukara, Tongue. Sub not used: Berardi.
REFEREE: Gary Sutton.
ATTENDANCE: 3,493 (923 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Liam Hearn.